Former employees describe extremely long work hours, unpleasant working conditions, and a cultural divide between TikTok’s US and Chinese locations in a disturbing article from The Wall Street Journal.
Employees at TikTok’s Los Angeles office have reportedly complained of sleep deprivation as a result of working late and attending meetings with coworkers in China. According to the Wall Street Journal, some employees report spending approximately 85 hours each week in meetings and need additional time to complete their tasks. Because Sunday in the United States is already Monday in China, many employees report working on weekends to keep up with their counterparts on the other side of the world.
TO KEEP UP WITH OTHER COLLEAGUES, SOME EMPLOYEES DESCRIBED AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF PRESSURE.
According to the WSJ, this type of working atmosphere had an impact on employees’ emotional well-being and health. After giving proof to his manager that he had developed a “possibly life-threatening disease,” one employee said he was able to get out of working “back-to-back all-nighters.” Melody Chu, another former senior product manager, stated on Medium that she routinely worked late into the night to meet with her Chinese colleagues. Sleep deprivation and weight loss resulted from the imbalance between her job and personal lives. Chu said she had to go to marriage counseling since she couldn’t spend time with her husband.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some employees said they felt enormous pressure to keep up with their coworkers, particularly at TikTok’s China operations. According to reports, the company had several teams rushing to finish the same project in order to motivate employees to finish their work faster, but this resulted in “paranoia about falling behind colleagues, or frustration when their projects never saw the light of day,” which led to “frustration when their projects never saw the light of day.” Another former employee, Lucas Ou-Yang, said on Twitter that he knew of ten product managers who left after one year because they were required to match the schedules of their Chinese coworkers.
Some of the information in the WSJ study isn’t new; last year, CNBC reported on the same “996” work pattern that the WSJ referenced. This schedule, in which employees work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, was common practice in some Chinese companies until it was outlawed last year. Instead, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, instituted a 63-hour workweek, consisting of five days of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. workdays. It’s unclear whether this kind of schedule is common outside of China, but “many employees say the extended hours remain the expectation,” according to the WSJ.
The complete piece from the WSJ is well worth reading if you want to learn more about TikTok’s work culture and how it affects other workers.